If you book it, they will come

Use your outdoor voice at Chautauqua’s first-ever Flatiron Sounds Music Festival

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Last year’s 125th Chautauqua anniversary party provided the blueprint for the Flatiron Sounds Music Festival, says organizer Scott Bauer. Courtesy: Flatiron Sounds Music Festival

Scott Bauer remembers the first time he ever laid eyes on the stunning view of Chautauqua Park. Like many who have reflected on the awe-inspiring sight nestled at the base of Boulder’s iconic Flatirons, it gave him an idea.

“The first thing I noticed was the enormity of that open space and how perfect it would be to host a festival there,” he recalls. “It’s very inspiring when you walk down there and you see the size of it, you see that backdrop.” 

Bauer’s if-you-build-it-they-will-come epiphany occurred three years ago, when the Colorado Chautauqua’s manager of programming and event operations began dreaming of attracting people to the green with music and revelry. Now he’ll see how many will come out for the first-ever Flatiron Sounds Music Festival when that dream becomes a reality June 16.

The folksy, bluegrass-heavy lineup features Denver’s Clay Street Unit, Jake Leg and King Cardinal, Lyons singer-songwriter Alexa Wildish and the duo Two Runner of Northern California.

Fresh off last season’s playoff run on NBC’s The Voice, Wildish jumped at the chance to be among the first slate of artists to take the stage at the inaugural live-music blowout in her own backyard.

“I thought it would be nice to do a festival that’s never been done before, and the fact that it’s available to the public [for free] is really awesome,” Wildish says. “I just love the feeling of being outdoors in summertime with other people who love music.”

Alexa Wildish, Lyons resident and contestant on NBC’s ‘The Voice,’ is one of five performers taking the stage at the inaugural Flatiron Sounds Music Festival. Credit: Jo Babb

Room to grow

Flatiron Sounds is more than just a day full of music. Sixteen vendors and five food trucks will be on hand  — the Chautauqua General Store is also an option for snacks and gifts — alongside sponsors Sanitas Brewing Company and Luna Bay, who are bringing the local brew and hard kombucha.

“The whole place is essentially a huge beer garden,” Bauer explains. He says there will also be family-friendly options such as arts and crafts and lawn games for attendees of all ages.

Last year’s 125th Chautauqua anniversary party provided the blueprint for what a more official music festival could look like, according to Bauer.

“It was the first time we’ve done a large-scale event down at the green.  Everybody seemed to want to do it again, but obviously, the 126th anniversary doesn’t quite have as good of a ring to it,” he says. “The bones were already there to execute this again. It was sort of like a case study last year, and that went really well.”

The overarching goal is to make Flatiron Sounds an annual free festival — and a little bigger, if popularity pushes it to expand. (This year’s setup only uses half of the green, Bauer points out.) Then there’s the possibility of creating a multi-day community come-together.

“The room for growth is certainly there, so the more people the better. That will help us grow,” he says. 

Denver’s Clay Street Unit headlines the first-ever Flatiron Sounds Music Festival at Boulder’s Chautauqua Park on June 16. Courtesy: Clay Street Unit

The real rockstars 

Keeping the festival free is a credit to the sponsors, according to Bauer. He says supporters like Boulder’s own Sanitas Brewing Co., Luna Bay of Chicago and KGNU Community Radio are the real rockstars.

“As a free festival, making it financially viable is the real challenge, so we’re really grateful for our sponsors and partners who came on board to help support it,” Bauer says. “Those people are invaluable to make this continue to happen.”

KGNU and Chautauqua frequently partner on Community House shows that often showcase hometown talent. The festival, as Bauer sees it, is an extension of that beloved homegrown tradition.

“We’ll always want to support local bands no matter how large it grows,” he says. “Then it would be nice to expand and get some national artists in there, for sure.”

While Flatiron Sounds isn’t the only free music gathering in Boulder, Chautauqua aims to become the go-to, and the one with the best view, moving forward.

“Our goal is to be the preeminent, free, live-music destination festival of the summer,” Bauer says.

If Flatiron Sounds reaches such heights, it would also be another manifestation of Bauer’s earliest visions for the pristine park that first took his breath away three years ago.

“To provide a free music event for the community on that large of a scale,” he says. “It would be a dream come true for everybody here.”


ON THE BILL: Flatiron Sounds Music Festival: Clay Street Unit, Jake Leg, King Cardinal, Alexa Wildish and Two Runner. 1-7 p.m. Sunday, June 16. Chautauqua Park, 900 Baseline Road, Boulder. Free

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